A message from UMSL Chancellor Tom George

UMSL Chancellor Tom George

What do you say to a third grader in north St. Louis County who worries about getting shot when she grows up?

That was the lead sentence in a St. Louis Public Radio article stemming from a training session held Thursday on the University of Missouri–St. Louis campus. Like reporter Dale Singer and about 100 area teachers and school administrators, we all want to learn how to talk with people traumatized by recent incidents in Ferguson and the greater St. Louis region.

Stress, anxiety and tension have taken a toll on us all.

The campus session was just one example of UMSL faculty and professional staff lending their expertise to begin the healing process and to address the larger issues that will help determine our future as a region.

Our Center for Trauma Recovery and Community Psychological Service have been extremely busy providing free counseling to our students and employees, as well as individuals from the larger community. I expect their services will be in even greater demand as classes formally start next week. Call 314-516-6738 to arrange an appointment.

Faculty, staff and students from our Department of Counseling and Family Therapy and Children’s Advocacy of Greater St. Louis provided training this week to teachers and staff in several area school districts, including Ferguson-Florissant, Riverview Gardens, Normandy, Jennings, University City and St. Louis Public.

Faculty continue to provide context to varied issues through local, national and international media. Some, like Todd Swanstrom and Karl Guenther, have outlined a way forward for local and state leaders. Todd is also providing an update next week on a UMSL-led initiative to build stronger communities.

UMSL has joined an effort called the North County Business Recovery Coalition that includes various people from government, education, industry and state, regional and local economic development agencies. We had a lively discussion this morning regarding economic recovery and advancement stemming from the Ferguson events. Gov. Jay Nixon participated to stress the importance of our collective efforts. I will touch base with you on this again as the coalition establishes an action plan.

Last week I mentioned that UMSL was sponsoring a food drive to help Ferguson area residents. More than 850 food items were collected in just two hours for St. Stephen’s food pantry. Campus Life is taking the lead on another collection – First Days for Ferguson – as students return and the semester gets under way. From Aug. 22 to 26, members of the UMSL community may donate goods at drop-off locations throughout campus. Items specifically requested by the food pantry include paper goods, diapers and wipes, personal hygiene products and baby food.

Students in social work collected books, school supplies and snacks for children in Ferguson who have not started school yet. The items were taken to the Dellwood Recreation Center for distribution.

Our need on campus to process and be involved in community healing and rejuvenation will reach a higher level now that students are returning to campus. They have great talent and the will to be involved. We’ll work to channel that energy into safe, productive projects and toward forums and lectures encompassing issues of equal opportunity and community betterment.

I am proud of the way in which our students, faculty and staff are emerging as leaders for a better St. Louis. And I am heartened by the comments and actions of our alumni – many of whom are themselves in the forefront of positive change in Ferguson and other surrounding communities.

I came to the St. Louis region 11 years ago – well aware of the St. Louis region’s historic past as a gateway. This is a place where people came seeking a better life for themselves and their families. It’s a place where people came together to create great communities, companies and institutions.

Nothing has changed my view. St. Louis is a world-class region that – with your help – will emerge from recent events stronger and better.

Tom George


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